Finance

8 in 10 voters support consumer watchdog agency: poll

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is seen in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, April 20, 2022.
Greg Nash
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is seen in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

A sturdy bipartisan majority said in a recent poll they support the mission of a polarizing financial watchdog agency that could be gutted by the Supreme Court.

Seventy-nine percent of registered voters said they favor the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and its efforts to protect Americans from abusive and fraudulent financial products, according to a survey conducted by Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners and Republican polling firm Chesapeake Beach Consulting.

The online poll of 1,000 registered voters found substantial bipartisan support for the CFPB, an agency established in 2011 through the Wall Street financial reform law, and some of its top regulatory initiatives. 

Eighty-six percent of Democrats, 64 percent of independents, and 75 percent of Republicans said they favored the CFPB’s mission, while only eight percent of respondents believed the agency was a burden on the financial sector.

“This poll reveals Americans of all ideological stripes support the work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. People want the CFPB to stop financial discrimination and other unfair practices. Any move to defang this consumer watchdog would be extremely unpopular,” said Charla Rios, deputy director of research at the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL).

The CFPB has been fiercely supported by Democrats since its inception, touted by liberals as a crucial safeguard against Wall Street greed. But the agency has also been a constant target for Republican lawmakers, who say the CFPB’s immense power, strict regulations and aggressive enforcement actions do more harm than good.

While the CFPB has survived several attempts to dismantle the agency through litigation, it faces a new legal threat that could upend the agency and leave it powerless.

A panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in October that the CFPB’s unique power to fund its own operations is unconstitutional. 

Most federal agencies are funded through the congressional appropriations process, where lawmakers can allocate money for specific purposes. But the CFPB secures its funding through a simple budget request from the director to the Federal Reserve System.

“Even among self-funded agencies, the Bureau is unique. The Bureau’s perpetual self-directed, double-insulated funding structure goes a significant step further than that enjoyed by the other agencies on offer,” wrote 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Cory Wilson, a Trump appointee, writing on behalf of a unanimous panel of two other judges nominated by the previous president.

But some legal experts who support the CFPB, such as Georgetown University law professor Adam Levitin, argue that the agency’s “dual insulation” from the Congressional funding process is irrelevant to its legality.

“If the problem that the funding unappropriated, that’s a binary issue. It’s appropriated or it’s not, and if it’s not, then the source is irrelevant. It’s not as if the “dual insulation” actually makes it any harder for Congress to control the CFPB,” Levitin argued in an October blog post.

Updated at 5:24 p.m.

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